Turkey: If Kurds retreat, it won't resume offensive

Turkey: If Kurds retreat, it won't resume offensive
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Turkey signaled Wednesday it will not resume its military offensive in northern Syria “at this stage” if Kurdish forces leave the border area.

“At this stage, there is no further need to conduct a new operation outside the present operation area,” Turkey's foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry’s statement follows a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinDOJ releases new tranche of Mueller witness documents Russia's shakeup has implications for Putin, Medvedev and the US The Hill's Morning Report - Dems to lay out impeachment case to senators next week MORE, who agreed their troops would patrol the northeastern Syrian border together after the Kurdish forces left.

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The statement also came after separate talks between Turkey and the U.S. and Russia. 

Russia and Turkey are both warning Kurdish forces that Turkey will move forward if Kurdish forces do not leave the area, The Associated Press reported.

A temporary cease-fire between the two sides ended on Tuesday night.

Turkey’s defense ministry said the U.S. had reported the Kurdish fighters had retreated during the five-day cease-fire, but there have been disputes over whether the retreat was completed.

The Kremlin instructed the Kurdish forces to remove themselves, saying they would be “steamrolled by the Turkish army” if they did not, according to the AP.

“It’s quite obvious that if the Kurdish units don’t withdraw with their weapons then Syrian border guards and Russian military police will have to step back,” said spokesman Dmitry Peskov, the AP reported. “And the remaining Kurdish units will be steamrolled by the Turkish army.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu indicated that Turkish troops would “clear” any Kurdish fighters they found in Turkey’s patrol area. 

The foreign minister added that the agreement with Russia to patrol the border area would stay in effect until a deal with Syria is attained, according to the AP.

Erdoğan wants to develop a 20-mile secure area in Syria along the border with Turkey that would be free of Kurdish forces. Those forces were allied with the United States, but Erdoğan views them as being associated with Kurdish separatist groups within Turkey. 

Turkey initiated an offensive into Syria to attack the Kurdish forces along the border after President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump's newest Russia adviser, Andrew Peek, leaves post: report Hawley expects McConnell's final impeachment resolution to give White House defense ability to motion to dismiss Trump rips New York City sea wall: 'Costly, foolish' and 'environmentally unfriendly idea' MORE announced the removal of U.S. troops from the area. The president faced bipartisan backlash from lawmakers, who feared the Kurdish forces who helped the U.S. fight ISIS would view the removal as a betrayal. 

Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoSunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial Parnas pressure grows on Senate GOP Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process MORE visited with Erdoğan last week when Pence announced the cease-fire to allow the Kurdish troops to withdraw from the area that expired Tuesday.